Project area:Shiogama City (Miyagi Prefecture)
Unearthing the Buried Treasure of our Home Town
Establishing a Place which Citizens Can Be Proud Of
The surviving family shrine and hearth in Shiogama,the "sacred place of salt"
Shiogama City is known as the temple city of Mutsunomiya Shiogama Shrine, located in the centre of Miyagi prefecture. In Okama Shrine, the sister of Shiogama Shrine, the deity which is said to have taught the secret of making salt is enshrined. Just as the name Shiogama suggests (translated as place of salt making), this city has a long history of salt production. The company Gambare Shiogama was established 5 years ago in order to revitalize the economy of this area which is known as the "sacred place of salt". Fumio Oikawa,whose main occupation is fish processing, renovated a part of his workshop and for the last two years has been implementing the traditional method of salt making.
Then, the tsunami came and destroyed Shiogama, leaving Fumio with only the family altar and the hearth.
"I lost my close friends, my senior lost his wife, and my younger colleague lost his whole family. Such events were happening all around me. In the workshop,only the family altar and the hearth remained. When I took in this reality, I thought 'we have to recover from this disaster as soon as possible. We have to come together as a town and form a team.'"
With this in mind, on 16th May salt production at the Gambare Shiogama Company restarted. Fumio expresses the urgent importance of rapid community regeneration.
"There are many people who have lost their homes and are living in temporary housing. But if we do not set up an industry which can generate an income for these people,then the town will sink. Shiogama has the best production of minced tuna in Japan. But now the factories and workshops of this important industry, as well as those for the production of sweets and other goods, have all been destroyed. In order to repair these facilities 10,000,000, 20,000,000 yen is required. But in these circumstances we are faced with much debt. Is it possible to double our debts and still go on?"
Telling the things of the sea, by the sea
Fumio is now considering salt as the key element in the regeneration of Shiogama. One such method of revival is to establish a Salt Museum close to the sea which will provide an overview of Shiogama's history.
"In any home town there exists a buried treasure.I want to unearth this and set it to work for the redevelopment of this area. This is a sea town.People who work on the sea cannot go into the mountains to work. People who know only the sea and port cannot simply go to the mountainside to share their knowledge. While sensing some kindred spirit with the sea, we want the museum visitors to share our feelings and experiences. So if the museum is not by the sea, it has no meaning. If I am asked 'What will you do if another tsunami comes?', my answer would be to run away. Even if such a facility is taken by a wave, as long as we can escape then another museum can be built."
The main problem in undertaking the construction of the Salt Museum is lack of funds.But they cannot rely on such support from the authorities who are concentrating their efforts on clearing the rubble and constructing temporary housing. Therefore, Fumio wishes to create this space with the cooperation of local people.
"Just a small donation of 100 yen,200 yen,anything is fine, I just want to receive the support of the people of Shiogama. The money is accompanied by the people's sentiments, and their moral support will give much logistic backing to this project. I would also like them to promote it to friends and relatives outside of the prefecture so that, in some way,each person who makes a donation becomes a sales person for the project. This is surely a strong way to raise funds."
At Okama Shrine on 4th July a special ceremony is held for the reaping of seaweed at Hanabuchihama. The next day a ritual is observed in which water is replaced in the shrine's hearth, and on 6th an ancient rite is observed in which salt is produced.
The tsunami entered the workshop just as far as the family altar. When Fumio returned to the workshop,only the family altar and hearth remained.
(The interview was conducted on June 29, 2011 in Shiogama, Miyagi)